This holiday season, Christmas will shine brighter than ever.
Twinkling lights by the thousands and, in most cases, millions illuminate these five incredible Christmas destinations, several of which are debuting impressive new expansions. Whether it’s the town of Grapevine, Texas, or inside Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the merry sights, sounds and smells of Christmas begin in November and run through the New Year.
Ozark Mountain Christmas
With dazzling parades, live shows and drive-through light tours, it seems like Christmas in Branson couldn’t possibly shine any brighter. Yet it will.
“Branson has the largest variety of wonderful and unique Christmas trees found anywhere,” said Lynn Berry, director of communications for Explore Branson. “This year, we’re doubling the number of trees to 100.”
The lights will burn November 1 through January 4. Branson’s Gift of Lights Christmas drive-through display is a 1.2-mile-long stretch of holiday lights, and the Trail of Lights at the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead is an illuminated wonderland winding through the historic hills of the 160-acre homestead.
An Old Time Christmas festival at Silver Dollar City will be brighter this year, too; it will add 1.5 million lights, bringing the park’s total to 6.5 million. “It’s an unbelievable world,” Berry said. “In an area of 100 acres, we have lights on everything standing still.”
The festival has added Christmas in Midtown, an area filled with light displays nine stories high, including 30 angels, three light tunnels and moving trains. A popular feature of the festival is a nightly parade with musical lighted floats and costumed characters. The parade begins with the lighting of a five-story Christmas tree with 350,000 dancing LED lights. Groups can also enjoy two musical productions: “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Dickens Christmas Carol.”
Branson will officially kick off the season November 4 with the “Most Wonderful Time of Year” parade hosted by a full line-up of the city’s favorite entertainers. The parade concludes with live performances in front of the Branson Landing fountains.
A month later, on December 3 at dusk, Branson celebrates keeping Christ in Christmas. The Adoration Parade, 69 years running, exclusively honors the story of Jesus’ birth, with no other person or organization promoted.
Christmas Capital of Texas
As the Christmas Capital of Texas, Grapevine goes big with millions of lights and more than 1,400 Christmas events in 40 days. The town’s popular resorts — Great Wolf Lodge and Gaylord Texan Resort — transform themselves into winter wonderlands as well.
Historic downtown is the hub of activities and shopping. “It’s a beautiful, historic Texas town blanketed in lights and decor and Christmas trees,” said Leigh Lyons, director of communications for the Grapevine Convention and Visitor Bureau. “Every corner along Main Street is a photo opportunity.”
On November 20, the mayor flips the switch on Grapevine’s 30-foot tree to live music and fireworks, and Santa Claus finally shows up December 7 on the final float in the Parade of Lights down Main Street.
This year, Grapevine hosts the “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” exhibit, on loan from the Charles M. Schulz Museum to one lucky town each year. It’s free and will be open November 1 through December 31 in the Grapevine Clock Tower Gallery on South Main Street.
Also on the southern end of Main Street is the platform for Grapevine Vintage Railroad’s North Pole Express, which ferries families to visit Santa at the North Pole.
Great Wolf Lodge, a giant rustic-themed resort and indoor water park, transforms into Snowland starting November 25, with daily snowfalls in the lobby while temperatures inside the adjacent water park remain a comfortable 84 degrees.
The “Ice!” exhibit hall at the Gaylord Texan Resort is kept at a chilly nine degrees to preserve the 2 million pounds of ice carved into beautiful sculptures by a team of 40 artists from China. Groups can also slide down five two-story ice slides. Gaylord events will run November 10 to January 1, 2018.